CASE STUDY

Multimedia Documentation of Electronics Hacking Projects

Method — Content Analysis, Remote Interviews

Popular online How-To pages were the core pieces of data for this project. To find out what didn't work, I conducted brief, remote interviews with the authors about their challenges behind the scenes.

Identified a couple dozen How-To authors linked from popular hacking blogs. Performed a content analysis of text and multimedia from these online How-To pages. Conducted semi-structured interviews with the authors by phone or instant messenger about the steps in their process and the challenges they faced.

A one-handed XBOX controller, from schematic to built artifact. (Photo and How-To credit: Ben Heck)

A one-handed XBOX controller, from schematic to built artifact. (Photo and How-To credit: Ben Heck)

Research Question

Telling someone else how to build something can be really hard. What strategies do successful How-To authors use to provide detail about processes and physical objects?

Design Insights

Immense efforts are required to create good How-To pages, so authors are reluctant to give up control of their content to a third-party site. At the same time, electronics hackers create How-To pages because they want to connect with others like themselves. The tension between individual control and the desire for community opens up design possibilities. To support How-To sharing, link a loose, informal network of autonomous sites together rather than trying to motivate How-To authors to consolidate their content on a common platform.